Portland, Sept. 12, 1861
To Mr. Capen:
Your letter was received, and in it you say your wife was affected somewhat as I said she would be, and now you ask me if I think she should come to Portland, that I could help her knees. Now sir, my cures depend a great deal on the confidence of my patients, and if they think I have a power, then of course I do not know any more about it than they do. If it is from God or the devil, I am but an instrument in their hands and give them the credit, if they cure through me; and if they fail, lay the blame, also, on them. I, as a man, cannot give an opinion of what the Lord or the devil does through me towards curing disease. This is one of the absurdities of the world. They admit that I do not know anything about this power, as they call it, and then next ask me to give an opinion of what I can do; thus depriving me of any wisdom, and then expecting me to give an opinion that makes me responsible for the devil's or God's acts.
Now sir, I will place your wife's case before you in a sensible manner, so that you shall not be deceived, and let you decide about her coming by your own and her judgment. She has been here, and I tried to affect her after the manner that I do everyone; that is, appealing to her common sense. I do not assume any wisdom from God or from the devil or from spirits, but I try to show that disease is one of the phenomena of our belief, and to correct the belief, I change the mind of the patient. Their wisdom is then attached to my ideas of truth, and this is the cure.
Now to get a person to come to me by holding out some inducement or promise in one hand and taking money in the other is selfish and hypocritical. If the patients have confidence in me, they would not wish me to coax them. Jesus said, if the sheep knew the voice of the shepherd, they would follow him. So I say, if the sick knew me, they would not want me to hold out inducements to cure them, but they would coax me, instead of my coaxing them. This puts me in a position I do not like; and your wife is also in a bad position.
Just let me make an illustration that will show how we both stand. Suppose I am in a prison, and your wife has the name of getting people out. Now I know this, and I know that if I make my case known to her, she will do the best she can to get me out; and should she fail, it would not be from any neglect of hers. Now I send her a letter, saying that if she thinks she can get me out, I should like to have her try. Do you think she would be induced to make much effort? You can answer. Suppose I believe that if I could only get her interested in my case, she would get me clear. Then I should not put any restrictions on her, but throw myself into her power and trust to luck. In this way, when she had me in her power, if she had any sympathy, she would exert it for my happiness.
I told your wife that if she thought she received any benefit, she might get better; but if I had to make one single condition in the way of compromising to bring her here, by which she would not come, unless I did, I should not have any faith at all. Therefore, I say, if she comes, I shall use all my wisdom to restore her to health and happiness.